Southern Sao Tomé

The market in the capital

When my couchsurfing host came home from a night shift at the hospital, he just had a quick shower and told me that he was ready to show me around the southern part of Sao Tomé island. We picked up two israeli girls and a few minutes later we were on the road heading South.

Plenty of taxis outside the market

The first stop along the way was a place called Boca del Inferno, which was a natural bridge combined with a massive blow hole which shot water in the air every time a wave hit the shore.

Boca del inferno

A short ride further South brought us to the Cascata de Pesqueteria where we could break up our journey and dip our toes in the water, which seemed to be the washing machine for the whole village.

Cascata De Pesqueria was not the most impressive waterfall on the island

Another place we stopped was Bobo Forro, where some local guys showed us the way up to the top of the mountain where we climbed a massive rock to get a great view where we even spotted the shore of Principe Island.

The view from on top of Bobo Forro

Finally, the highlight of our trip to the South was the Pico Sao Grande (the big dog peak) which is a volcanic plug created by magma thar solidified on top of a volcano when it was active.

Pico Sao Grande is a place that looks like it belongs in a movie

Northern Sao Tomé

Sao Tomé city center is very run down

Sao Tomé is the main island in the country by the name of Sao Tomé and Principe. The country has about 200 000 inhabitants and is laying right on the equator, in the “armpit” of West Africa.

The cathedral is one of the few landmarks in the city

The capital is also called Sao Tomé and does not have much to offer other than a couple of markets and some run down colonial buildings. An old military fort on the waterfront did some thorough explanaition of the history and biodiversity of the country and was well worth a visit.

The fortress and national museum

Coming back to the same place in the evening and on the weekend was a completely different experience. The place was packed with people drinking beers, listening to music and eating street food while children were swimming on the beach.

The beach below the fortress is packed with people on evenings and weekends

Some buildings in the city had an art deco like architectural style

From the capital we drove North and didnt stop until we had reached one of the most famous spots on the island called Lagua Azul.

The baobab trees by lagua azul can fit people in them!

The colors of the water in Lagoa Azul were a deep blue and very beautiful.

In a country on the equator, with stability, cheap prices and a good climate all year around I was surprised to not see any tourists at these places. Most of the tourists who come here are retired Portuguese, French and Italians who stay in their resorts.

Praia Tamarindo is popular among locals, but I didnt see a single tourist

Also Praia Tamarindo, which is one of the most famous beaches on the island had any other tourists, but it was full of locals who come there on weekends which was good to see.

Kids doing flips on the beach near Praia Tamarindo

Chasing Cocoa and Coffee in Sao Tomé

Sao Tomé is famous for having the least bitter cocoa in the World and some really good coffee so a visit to the island is not complete unless you have at least had a taste of it.

Coffee beans drying in Monte Café

One of the best places to get an understanding of the production of coffee is in the small mountain village called Monte Café where there is a museum with machines dating back to the 1800’s. Ive been to several coffee museums and plantations before but this was perhaps the overall most educational covering every aspect of producing coffee.

The 3eur entry for the coffee museum included a guide and coffee tastings

Another place that has a lot of history from cocoa planation in the colonial times is the Roca Agua Ize, where the whole village is built as residential houses for workers at the “roca” (farm).

Roca Agua Ize used to be a cocoa plantation complex

The view from Roca Agua Ize

Last up on my cocoa coffee quest was the chocolate laboratory of Claudio Corallo, which is located in the capital of Sao Tomé which was set up by an Italian coffee broker more than 40 years ago. He discovered that the Sao Tomé cocoa was unique as it had absolutely no bitterness to it.

Tasting ginger chocolate covered in 100% cocoa at Claudio Corallo

The entrance to the guided tour of the factory cost 4euro and included around 15 chocolate tastings of all kinds. We had chocolate with salt and pepper, Liberica coffee (my favorite), ginger and a cocoa liquor, where one litre of liquor was made from one tonn of cocoa pulp. The cocoa, pepper and other ingrediens were made in their plantations on principe island, all without using chemicals and additives to their products.

As a bonus on our Monte Café trip we stopped at Cascato Sao Nicolau

Touring Bioko Island

Horacio Island behind Sofitel in Sipopo

In Equatorial Guinea you need, in addition to your visa, a permit (which looks like this) to take pictures in the country. As soon as I got this, I set off on a trip around the island which took two days.

First off we drove to Sipopo, a small village outside Malabo where known for its cocoa plantation that is no longer in use. The main road, like everywhere on the island was very good and went past some grand, seemingly unused buildings in Sippopo like a mall, conference center and the 54 luxury residences that the president had built for the 54 African presidents when they held and African Union summit.

My host Bindang making a small friend on Horacio island

Next up was a village called Riaba, which had a long and beautiful beach which I unfortunately did not manage to capture with my photo below.

The beach in Riaba

Riaba was also a nice place to stop for a meal at the one and only beach restaurant there.

When we arrived Moca we were halfway around the island. The city was way higher up than the coast so the temperatur there was cool and nice. Moca also had a small museum/wildlife center that was built by the oil company Exxon, where we got to learn a bit about the wildlife in Equatorial Guinea.

The Ureka Waterfall

Moca was not the most interesting. It had an old church, and was a once street kind of town where the buildings were barely holding up. Driving down to Ureka, which was approximately a 60km drive we made a camp on the beach and visited a couple of waterfalls. This is also the only place I was asked for a bribe by the police, which was just three dollars, which was almost fair as we had woken the police up around midnight.

The view over Moca

Luba was the last city we visited, but I would say that there was not really anything interesting to see there. The president has a palace in every province so just like in Malabo and Riaba he also had one there. Far more interesting was the small village called Batete just a short drive from Luba.

The old Spanish Church in a village called Batete outside of Luba

I would say that the roads around the island was impressive, possibly the best roads in Africa after Mauritius and the landscape was much more interesting with lots of green.

The roads are good and the landscape is beautiful. You will see a lot of the National tree called “ceiba”

Our last stop was the highest point in Equatorial Guinea called Pico Basile, where they had built a church with a statue of the virgin lady.

Apparently there are lots of monkeys living up there, but they only come down to the church in the rainy season, so we didnt see any. There was not much of a view as we were over the clouds, but it was a pleasant end to our trip around the Bioko Island.

Last stop was Pico Basile, the highest mountain in Equatorial Guinea

Looking for Sea Turtles in Ureka

I had been unknowingly lucky to arrive in the turtle season between november and february where gigantic leatherback turtles were coming up every night to lay their eggs. I got in touch with Miguel from Enohatours who said he could take me for cheap, so we packed up a tent, sleeping mat and headlamp and made our way down to the Southern part of the island.

Miguel had just started his travel company and was as eager as me to go chasing turtles. As soon as we had parked our car by the beach, we crossed the river and found a place to make camp for the night.

On the way, we heard some some thumping sounds and some heavy breathing and grunting, just like the sound of an ox. Mangel recognized the sound at once and pointed towards where a turtle was making its way up from the ocean, not far from us.

The turtle was way bigger than I first had imagined. A full grown way anything between 200-900 kilos and come up from the ocean once a year to lay eggs.

Some rangers who were living there came up to us to check that we were not turtle hunters. We confirmed to them that we were just tourists and that we understood the rules of not getting close to the turtles before they had laid their eggs and never use flash before it was on the way back to the ocean, as that would disturb the turtles who navigate using the moonlight.

The first one we saw was definitely the biggest one. The turtles can get up to 100 years and I can imagine this one already having passed her 100th birthday.

Together with watching leatherback turtle harchings in Kabalana Beach, Sri Lanka, this must be one of my favorite animal encounters. Also because I had a turtle as a pet when I was a child.

The camping on the beach, under some of the brightest stars I have ever seen, falling asleep to the sounf of the waves and seeing five holes outside the tent where the turtles had laid eggs in the night was also part of the experience which I will reccommend to anyone who make it to Equatorial Guinea.